West Bengal files caveat in Supreme Court

Even as the Calcutta High Court on Monday refused to pass an interim order on a fresh petition filed by Tata Motors praying for an injunction on return of land at Singur to farmers who had “unwillingly” given it for the company's small car project (since relocated), the West Bengal government filed a caveat in the Supreme Court anticipating that the company might move it.

“The caveat was filed at 4 p.m. today [on Monday]. If Tata Motors files any application in the Supreme Court on the issue, I will be immediately intimated,” said Abhijit Sengupta, standing counsel for the government.

An appeal made before a Division Bench of the High Court by Samaraditya Pal, counsel for Tata Motors, to hear the matter without a written submission pleading urgency in the case, was also not allowed.

The Bench of Justices Pratap Kumar Roy and Abdul Ghani asked counsel to file a written petition and serve notice on the State.

As Tata Motors' plea for an interim order was rejected and its appeal for an oral submission was also not heard, “we anticipate that they may move the Supreme Court,” Mr. Sengupta said.

Fresh petition

The hearing on the petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 was scheduled to be held during the day. But after the government had initiated the process for distribution of the land to the “unwilling farmers” over the weekend, Mr. Samaraditya Pal filed a fresh petition, praying for an injunction. He argued that if the interim order was not passed, the original petition would become infructuous.

In his submission before Justice Soumitra Pal, counsel said Tata Motors had already lost possession of the land and there were apprehensions that it would be returned to farmers from Tuesday.

The notice issued by the office of the District Magistrate of Hooghly says interested persons may submit their claims for land to the Block Development Office, Singur, within 30 days from June 23. It also states the High-Power Committee will decide on all claims, counter-claims and objections, but does not specify when the hearings will commence.

“Rules will be followed”

Justice Pal asked Advocate-General Anindya Mitra whether it could be put on record that there would be no question of the government returning the land in the coming two days. Mr. Mitra merely assured the court that the rules framed under the Act, which was enacted last week, would be followed.

Mr. Mitra pointed out that the apprehensions that the return of land might commence on Tuesday itself had not been stated in the written petition. The apprehensions were expressed only in Mr. Samaraditya Pal's oral submission.

Justice Pal ruled that no interim order would be passed as no specific statement had been made by the petitioner about the commencement of the process of return of land.

“Undue haste”

A statement issued by Tata Motors on Monday evening said: “The company believes that as per conventions established in the country when a matter is being heard at a court of law, the parties concerned, more so when the party is the State, should not alter the existing state of facts in the matter and the undue haste being shown by the government is not conducive to upholding the rule of law… as per the country's legal procedure, the company will agitate the matter before the Supreme Court.”